Determinedly Enabling Our Enemies
Is history repeating itself?
On Tisha B'Av, we mourn the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans. The Talmud states that this tragedy happened due to sinat chinam, baseless hatred among the Jews. That's popularly taken today to refer to things such as lashon hara (and then wielded to discourage any criticism which makes one feel uncomfortable).
But the sinat chinam being described is not an abstract sin; rather, it was some very real and very terrible actions taking place among the Jews of that period, which assisted their enemies. There was the most terrible infighting, with factions murdering each other, thereby giving a tremendous gift to the Romans. While the Jews of Jerusalem had considerable food stores to withstand the siege, some of them burned it all, making the Roman army's job all the easier and the death toll all the greater.
Today, two thousand years later, we still have Jews enabling our enemies. There are people trying to force Israel to give power to those sworn to its destruction. Peter Beinart urges for the State of Israel to be dismantled, and using lies and distortions to build his case. Seth Rogen tells the press (who are thrilled to hear it) that Israel is a mistake.
And even within the ranks of Orthodox rabbis, we have people enabling our enemies.
In the previous post, A Gift To Antisemites, I highlighted the shocking libel issued by Rabbi Yaron Reuven against the Jewish People. He claimed that Hitler had good reason to hate the Jews, because all the moral degeneracy of Germany was being run by the Jews, and they also destroyed the economy by greedily charging high interest. Reuven's video has naturally been eagerly seized upon by antisemites, to successfully prove to people that even rabbis admit that Jews ruin their host countries.
Naturally, after reading my post, people were suitably outraged. Criticism of Reuven, already building as a result of his previous hateful videos, is reaching new levels. You'd expect that having been exposed for doing such a terrible thing, Reuven would frantically backtrack.
But no. Instead, he's doubled down.
His latest video, addressing the storm over his Hitler justifications, is titled "Baruch HaShem Even AntiSemites Learning Torah From Rabbi Reuven." He begins by finding humor in the entire matter, thrilled that his material is receiving hundreds of thousands of views, and joking about the great publicity. Ah yes, it's so funny!
Then, he says, "joking aside," he sees it as being a tremendous thing that his video attracted such attention among non-Jews. And he launches into a lengthy explanation of how it's important for non-Jews to see that we are willing to call out wrongdoing among our own.
I fear that many people are going to be fooled by this.
Yes, he is absolutely correct that it's important for us to call out wrongdoing among our own. We mustn't sweep things under the carpet. We must actively call out fraudsters and molesters and all kinds of crimes. This is what the Prophets did, and it's what we need to do.
But this is not what Reuven did! Instead, he fabricated crimes!
Reuven claimed that the morally degenerate clubs of Berlin "were all run by Jewish people." No, they weren't! To be sure, some of them were. And Jews may even have been over-represented in this area. But that would be just as Jews were over-represented in many areas. And they certainly weren't running "all" or even most such clubs! That was propaganda, spread by antisemitic opponents of the Weimar Republic.
Even more problematically, Reuven claimed that it's "absolutely true history" that the Jews destroyed the German economy with their financial greed. No, it isn't! Again, see this article for the real explanation of why the German economy collapsed, and how the Nazis manipulated this against the Jews. It's a lie - and one with devastating consequences. If you're making a video, to be shown on YouTube and available to the entire world, you have to be absolutely accurate in what you accuse the Jews of, when you're doing something as insane as trying to justify Hitler's claims!
Reuven is also buying into, and thereby legitimizing, another aspect of Nazi and general antisemitic propaganda. He is presenting the approach that Hitler hated the Jews because of the Jews' crimes. But in fact the opposite is true: it was because Hitler hated the Jews that he fabricated these crimes.
We can and should tolerate a range of views. But when they are extreme to the point of encouraging hatred and inciting violence towards mainstream rabbis, and providing libels to our enemies, this is far beyond the pale. Yaron Reuven must not be representing Judaism.
There is already some progress in this regard. Torah Anytime has removed his videos (unfortunately they have not yet done so for the videos of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi). The Forward just published an excellent article, "Alarmed by 'death threat' video, Orthodox Jews try to de-platform fiery 'folk preachers'." The pressure is mounting.
But we need to do much more. We need to try to get YouTube and Facebook to delete the videos and the accounts of these inciters. We need to stop Reuven from drawing legitimacy from the Rabbinical Alliance of America, a.k.a. Igud HaRabonim of America (the more religiously right-wing alternative to the RCA). After I exerted some pressure, his latest video now includes a brief disclaimer stating that it does not represent the views of the RAA. But this follows a video clip of the RAA logo, and a certificate from the RAA announcing that Rabbi Yaron Reuven is a respected member in good standing!
As a prominent rabbi wrote to me in astonishment: "The Igud purports to be the organization for solid, yeshiva- and chassidish- trained rabbanim, organized to protect the banner of authentic Torah. One would think that they would rush to purge themselves of a moron doing as much damage to Torah and to Jews as Yaron Reuven." But when I tried to tell this to my contacts at the RAA, I got nowhere. I was told that the organization "prides itself on having a lot of tolerance for diverse opinions," and that they "only draw the line at members committing crimes or being insufficiently Orthodox." Not for producing videos stating that prominent centrist rabbis are resha'im who deserve execution, or stating that Hitler had good reasons for hating the Jews.
Perhaps, this Tisha B'Av, instead of just making ourselves feel fulfilled by mourning the consequences of the terrible and dangerous behavior of some Jews two thousand years, we can actually do something about the terrible and dangerous behavior of some Jews today. On the RAA website, there is a list of rabbis and executive leaders of the organization. I urge people to contact them.
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